‘The General’ Lindiwe Sisulu in the running for JZ’s throne

Clean record: Veteran politician Lindiwe Sisulu has widespread experience in government and she has not been connected to any scandals or corruption, her followers say. (Photo: David Harrison)

Clean record: Veteran politician Lindiwe Sisulu has widespread experience in government and she has not been connected to any scandals or corruption, her followers say. (Photo: David Harrison)

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu could emerge as the dark horse in the race to succeed President Jacob Zuma as the next ANC leader.

Her supporters said this week the campaign to have her take over the ANC’s top job when the party goes to its national elective congress in December is gaining momentum in ANC structures.

Her supporters are presenting her as an alternative to former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has been publicly endorsed by Zuma and the ANC Women’s League as the president’s successor.

Sisulu’s supporters agree with the call for a woman president but they disagree with the women’s league’s assertion that Dlamini-Zuma is the only one ready to lead the ANC, and the country, in 2019.

Several ANC branches, they say, have already indicated they want struggle stalwart Walter Sisulu’s daughter for president.

Unlike Dlamini-Zuma and other ANC presidential candidates, Sisulu’s supporters say she is the most credible candidate and someone who can unite the party before the 2019 national elections.

They argue that Dlamini-Zuma’s association with Zuma and the Gupta family rules her out as a credible candidate. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is not the right person for the job either because of his alleged involvement in the Marikana massacre.

The Marikana commission of inquiry cleared Ramaphosa, who was a Lonmin shareholder at the time, of playing a role in authorising the killing of 34 miners on August 16 2012.

“To win the elections in 2019, the ANC needs someone like Sisulu, who doesn’t have any scandal to her name and does not belong to any faction in the ANC,” said one of her lobbyists, who asked to remain anonymous.

He added: “In 2019, South Africans will not vote for Marikana, they will not vote for the Guptas. They want a credible leader.”

Sisulu this week said she was not prepared to talk about succession until the ANC opened the debate later this year.
But she agreed with the principle of a woman as president.

“I don’t know why it’s a debate. Women in the ANC have held senior positions [from] its inception. We don’t talk of Lilian Ngoyi in any lesser way than you would of Madiba. We have women of substance in the ANC.”

She said there is a process in place in the ANC, encapsulated in its Eye of the Needle policy document.

“It details what kind of processes we must all go through in electing a leader. It’s a very rigorous process. We must stick to it.”

If that process is followed, the best person would emerge and that person would be a woman, she said.

“I firmly believe, let’s look for the right candidate. I firmly believe when we [the ANC] find the right candidate, it will be a woman.

“Not that we are looking for a woman. I am convinced that among the crop of people ready to lead this country is an equal number of men and ... women.”

She criticises the women’s league for publicly endorsing Dlamini-Zuma despite the ANC national executive committee’s (NEC) decision not to do so. “I don’t know how the women’s league put itself in that situation. We took very clear decisions at the last NEC that everybody will desist from this. It’s pitting one comrade against the other and the ANC is not about that. The last time we had this kind of situation was in Polokwane and the repercussions were disastrous, as you know.”

Sisulu’s supporters believe her clean record in government and the experience she has gained since 1994 puts her in pole position.

“She has been in six different departments — defence, intelligence, home affairs, public service and administration and human settlements. She understands the evolution of this government. All these are strategic portfolios. She knows South Africa in and out. She was the head of the intelligence committee during Codesa [the Convention on a Democratic South Africa]. You had her in all these important portfolios. Why don’t you trust her?” the lobbyist said.

Described by some as “the general”, Sisulu is credited for having launched the school of government aimed at providing compulsory training for public servants.

She has also been praised for her efforts when she was the public service and administration minister to push for the Public Administration Management Bill, which aims to bar government officials from doing business with the state.

But it earned her some enemies in the government and the ANC.

Some Zuma supporters have questioned her loyalty, particularly after she allowed AngloGold Ashanti chairperson Sipho Pityana, known for his contempt for the president, to speak at the funeral of her husband Rok Ajulu.

Pityana, whom some have accused of being part of “white monopoly capital”, used the platform to lambast Zuma’s leadership style. Sisulu’s supporters said she did not invite Pityana, and that he was there because he was a former student of the late professor.

Sisulu said that, although the ANC has done a lot in the fight against corruption, the governing party needs to do more to restore its integrity. If she had her way, all party members would be sent to a political school and would be subjected to constant testing by the school.

This would eliminate corruption, factionalism and infighting. (The ANC took a resolution at its 2012 national conference in Mangaung to establish a political school but it has never materialised.)

Sisulu said she supported the ANC’s calls for lifestyle audits of its leaders, but cautioned that this should be done carefully.

“I am not particularly opposed to lifestyle audits but it needs to be managed in such a way that you don’t make every­body a suspect.”

State ‘should intervene’ to give equal access to property

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the ANC needs to create more black capitalists to eradicate the high levels of poverty and unemployment in the country.

Her department also hopes to push through the Property Practitioners’ Bill, which is intended to narrow the inequality gap between the races.

Sisulu said: “If you were to have an aerial map of South Africa, you will see all the squatter camps — that’s black areas. All the opulent areas along the sea — that’s white areas … There has to be some way in which the state can intervene to ensure there is some kind of equalisation of access to property and assets.”

She said that, 23 years into democracy, black people only own R1-trillion worth of property, whereas more than R6-trillion is in the hands of white people.

Sisulu said that the ANC wanted to create more black industrialists to address unemployment and poverty, but that this would not result in black monopoly capital replacing white monopoly capital.

Afrikaners succeeded, she said, because they used the instruments of the state to ensure that they empowered Afrikaner capital.

“Capital, for me, is capital, except that if you create a particular type of capital with a particular intention [to] redistribute the resources of the state, I would find it completely justifiable.”

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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